SpaceX has released on-board footage of its successful Crew Dragon Launch Abort System (LAS) test that took place at Launch Complex 40 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station earlier this month. The success of the company's innovative new design of LAS represents a vital stepping stone in the spacecraft's road to becoming human rated. The newly-released footage shows in real time the dramatic life saving contingency that would be triggered should a critical error be detected in the rocket below in a launch scenario.
The traditional LAS system comes in the form of a rocket tower, that perches above and enshrouds a crew capsule at launch. In the event of an emergency, the tower fires, lifting the capsule and its valuable human cargo clear of danger. This tried and tested system was used during the Apollo era, and is planned for use for the Boeing CST-100 spacecraft.
The Crew Dragon LAS is breaking from the norm, instead using eight SuperDraco engines that are integrated into the capsule itself. The novel system should be a viable escape option right up to the point of achieving orbit, whereas the standard rocket tower design is only available for use on the pad, and in the first few minutes after launch.
In the case of an event on the launch pad or during ascent, the engines would fire simultaneously, lifting the Crew Dragon and its trunk clear of the launch vehicle. During the test, the eight SuperDraco engines fired for a burst of six seconds, successfully generating 120,000 lb of thrust, lifting the mock Crew Dragon and its trunk an impressive 5,000 ft (1,524 m) into the air.
Upon reaching its apogee, the trunk was successfully jettisoned, and soon after the capsule deployed two drogue parachutes, and finally splashed down safely just off the coast under three fully deployed main parachutes.
The video below contains the onboard footage of the Crew Dragon LAS pad test.
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